PATTERSON -- A carport fire displaced two families in adjoining duplexes, but quick work by Patterson firefighters and a passer-by saved the close quarters from destruction.
The fire in the 200 block of I Street broke out around 3 p.m. Saturday, when Patterson firefighters were returning from a medical call and Turlock resident Toby Perrien was heading home after watching his son's football game.
A darkening column of smoke rose from burning boxes, household goods and appliances stored in the carport, said Perrien, a former Mountain View volunteer firefighter. He pulled over and ran to the building, where he urged bilingual residents to make sure everyone was out of the two duplexes, which are connected by the carport.
Perrien said he grabbed a hose and climbed on the roof of the duplex closest to the fire, using a garbage can to reach the eaves. Flames licked the roofline and a window below him shattered from the heat as he sprayed the small stream toward the exposed roof, hoping to keep the blaze from spreading.
"Every little bit helps big fire like that, even a little garden hose," Perrien said.
Firefighters from Patterson and West Stanislaus County Fire Protection District arrived close to the pivotal moment when the fire started to gain momentum, he said.
Division Chief Steve Hall said damage was confined to portions of both duplexes, with the carport a complete loss. Firefighters on the ground quickly knocked down the fire, with 19 responding in all, he said.
Of the four units in the two duplexes, one was deemed uninhabitable, one had moderate damage, and the others had smoke and heat damage, Hall said. The Red Cross provided temporary shelter for the two displaced families, he said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339.